The Upside (2019)
I definitely had a very concerning preconceived notion of how this movie was going to play out. On one hand, I have been burnt out on Kevin Hart’s fast-talking-quick-witted-neurotic delivery that seems to be his typecast in most films of late (please don’t let this be another “Ride Along.”) On the other hand, in my mind Bryan Cranston can do no wrong (I have two words: “Breaking Bad.”) I couldn’t see the chemistry working.
As the film began, I started to worry if my theory was going to be correct as Hart’s character, Dell, seemed to start in the same gear that most of Hart’s roles tend to stay in. However, once Cranston’s character was introduced, it added an “Odd Couple” balance to the dialogue. Their chemistry harkened back that of Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in the classic film “Trading Places.”
The plot, that was inspired by a true story, takes place in New York city, where Dell’s life of crime and family neglect is starting to catch up to him. Out on parole, and trying to find work, Dell quickly goes from job interview to job interview really just looking to get his papers signed off on so he can keep his P.O. appeased with his unenthusiastic search for work.
After many pointless job leads, he finds himself at an interview, this time at the very wealthy estate of Phillip Lacasse. Assuming the job was for a janitorial position, he quickly falls in line with the other seemingly over-qualified candidates waiting their turn. After waiting for hours, Dell bursts into the interview room unannounced to quickly discover that Mr. Lacasse is quadriplegic and is in fact looking for a live-in caretaker, not a janitor. Even though Dell is obviously unqualified for the job, much to the dislike of Phillip’s key executive Yvonne (Kidman), Phillip finds something in him and he feels compelled to offer him the job.
The two venture into an odd friendship that leads to the heart and soul of the movie’s theme: everyone has their own set of problems (even filthy rich white guys.) Hart and Cranston’s chemistry is perfect for the film. The same panache Murphy and Aykroyd found in the aforementioned “Trading Places” is what keeps the film’s heavy subject matter light and charming. Even the most awkward scenes involving catheters and bed pans become comic gold.
I was also delighted to see that the screenwriters included a scene (or two) in which Dell introduces Phillip to medical cannabis to help alleviate his pain. While it’s nothing new to see movie characters smoke the ganja, it felt timely in the sense that we as a country are looking at the plant through new eyes, and the blatant confirmation that cannabis helps those in need definitely brought a smile to my face.
“The Upside”is like a warm hug from someone you love. It embraces you and reminds you that we as humans have a lot more in common than we may think. Grab a loved one and go see this movie.